Nursing has come a long way in a few short decades. At one time, it was regarded as a valuable but basic (even domestic) endeavor centered around simple caretaking duties. This has clearly changed, and these days, registered nurses and nurse practitioners are among the healthcare industry’s most trusted professionals.
There is still a strong need for supportive care and warm interactions with patients, but now, nursing involves so much more. It has become a highly clinical, research-backed profession that calls for extensive training — and a continual commitment to personal and professional improvement.
Further changes are anticipated in the future, especially as technology plays a more significant role in every corner of the healthcare sector. To facilitate positive patient outcomes in this complex environment, nurses must continue advancing their skills and adapting to new tools and techniques.
This will be more easily accomplished for nurses with solid foundational training and a desire to embrace new solutions. Below, we’ve highlighted a few of the nursing profession’s most impactful trends:
The Changing Landscape of Nursing
Nursing is always evolving, and that certainly isn’t about to change in the near future. The cliche about change being the only constant absolutely applies — but having been exposed to frequent changes these past few years, nurses should be fully prepared to navigate and even embrace these transitions. Many have observed the early signs of upcoming changes that are beginning to arrive at an accelerated pace.
Current Challenges and Opportunities
Nursing’s greatest challenges occupy every category imaginable. No discussion of the profession’s changing landscape would be complete, however, without at least a brief overview of the nursing workforce. This is in a definite state of flux, prompted by two major concerns: the burnout associated with the pandemic and the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation.
It will take a lot to fill the footprints of these experienced and passionate nurses — but in the meantime, there will be some significant advantages for aspiring nurses. The demand for skilled nurses is already exceptionally strong and only expected to increase, so it should be easier not only to find work in general but also, to secure specific jobs within desirable niches.
Other changes in nursing will be brought about by new technologies and evolving legislation. Enhanced training will be needed to equip both current and aspiring nurses with a new, more technical skill set — but this training will bring about exciting opportunities to streamline once time-consuming processes while improving quality of care.
Embracing Technological Innovations in Nursing
Spurred in part by the need to address staffing shortages, many healthcare facilities and providers have implemented technological solutions that, just a few short years ago, would have seemed like science fiction. Nurses have quickly adapted to these high-tech tools and systems, which, following a brief learning curve, many come to appreciate.
Enhancing Patient Care
Improved communication and comfort are among the top advantages of today’s nursing technologies, which are largely designed with the intention of boosting patient outcomes and satisfaction. Point-of-care technology is practically ubiquitous at this point, allowing nurses to remain near patients as they update records and create treatment plans. While there were some early hiccups with implementation, this technology has improved considerably in the last few years, to the point that it feels seamless these days.
Moving forward, point-of-care solutions will be even more personalized, especially as they begin to incorporate diagnostic solutions to a greater degree. These will be complemented by wearable devices and other digital monitoring solutions that keep nurses and other staff members abreast of the most urgent patient concerns — even (or especially) as patients transition to outpatient or home health care.
The proliferation of telehealth represented a clear silver lining during the darkest days of the pandemic. Through enhanced solutions such as video chat, those previously limited by mobility issues or rural locations found it easier to access the targeted insight and care they needed.
While there remains a strong need to address ongoing security, privacy, and connectivity issues, it’s clear that telehealth has a valuable role to play in the modern healthcare system. Experts anticipate that future telehealth solutions will make greater use of the aforementioned wearable devices.
Electronic Health Records
EHR are hardly new in the medical world; the influential Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was signed into law in 1996, after all. However, the way health systems use and protect EHR has evolved, and these records hold huge implications for the future of patient care and privacy.
The primary goal moving forward is to improve integration and interoperability so healthcare professionals are better able to access and exchange information. Experts anticipate that EHR will also play a greater role in telehealth and the medical Internet of Things (IoT) in the near future.
Robotics and Automation in Nursing
Today’s robotic systems are capable of carrying out highly complex yet repetitive tasks that were once deemed exclusively the domain of human workers. This can free up busy nurses to focus on interacting with their patients and finding creative solutions for the most complex concerns.
Automation is already heavily used for many of the administrative components of healthcare — and this will soon extend to nursing. It is increasingly entering the picture in a clinical capacity, with some nurses already relying on robotic devices such as Moxie and TUG to transport sensitive materials or equipment — and even electronic IV management systems capable of administering medication.
Benefits and Challenges
Through automated systems, healthcare facilities can address the many inefficiencies that stem from rapid changes in patient populations and staffing levels. As we’ve touched on, nursing shortages are a huge source of concern and, unfortunately, have a strong potential to accelerate as more Baby Boomers retire. While the best solution obviously involves training a passionate new generation of nurses, for the purposeful use of technology may be required to fill in the gaps.
Unfortunately, automated systems don’t always live up to their full potential. They can be challenging to implement, even when nurses are clearly willing to make the most of these solutions. What’s more, there is still a need for a cultural shift in expectations regarding the use of technology in healthcare. Many patients still mistrust these systems — and this stands in the way of implementation. As they grow more confident with such solutions, they can be integrated at a more rapid pace.
Ethical Considerations of Technology in Patient Care
As technological advancement accelerates, there will be ongoing discussions regarding the ethical elements of cutting-edge tech, especially as it relates to patient care. Many professionals are quick to accept automation for simple administrative tasks, but this grows far more complicated as critical decision-making enters the picture. There are no easy answers to these questions, but in-depth discussions will grow more prominent and will likely be a considerable part of the healthcare discourse for years and even decades to come.
Advances in Nursing Science and Research
Many of the concerns we’ve highlighted above will be closely investigated in the most influential studies of the next few years. This is just one area of interest in modern nursing research, however. Other trends in nursing science will explore:
- The role of globalization in the healthcare sector, especially in light of the pandemic.
- The expansion and impact of nursing informatics — and the need for literacy training.
- Insight into (and proposed solutions for) ongoing mental health issues in nursing and across the healthcare spectrum.
- Demographic changes in the nursing workforce and their impact on the nursing shortage (and related quality of care).
Interdisciplinary research is increasingly valued, with substantive exchanges of knowledge promising benefits not only for the nursing profession at large but also in allied healthcare and beyond.
Nursing Education and Professional Development
As the nursing profession changes, educational strategies will need to evolve as well. This begins with getting nurses trained at a higher level. For example, more RNs with their BSN and a greater emphasis on continuing to the graduate level. Other educational changes to anticipate include:
Evolving Curriculum for Future Nurses
Nursing curricula have long been built on a foundation of clinical care, and while a general understanding of anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology remains vital, it’s increasingly clear that nurses at all levels are inundated with content that they often struggle to apply in real-world settings.
Hence, the promotion of concept-based curricula, which equip nurses not only with a vast clinical understanding but also problem-solving and critical thinking skills so that they can adapt alongside the quickly changing profession. Nursing students will not merely be asked to recite facts or demonstrate a specific skill set; they will need to synthesize a wealth of data and evidence-based practices to provide the best possible care as they tackle a variety of complex situations.
The nursing curriculum of tomorrow will include a greater emphasis on care across the lifespan and within a climate of diversity. Cultural competency is crucial for addressing enduring gaps in patient outcomes across demographic groups. As such, critical concepts must be conveyed with the distinct needs and backgrounds of different patient populations in mind.
Incorporating Technology in Nursing Education
While aspiring nurses should still expect to master a variety of complex clinical concepts, there will be a greater emphasis on technological solutions moving forward. By the time they enter the profession, point-of-care systems and other tech-oriented solutions should feel familiar. Nursing curriculums should also cover telemedicine, including the use of wearables and biometrics for gathering vitals and other patient information.
Technology will also be used to introduce nurses to a variety of classic concepts while providing a more immersive, hands-on experience than is possible in a conventional classroom. This approach delivers the advantages of hands-on, real-world training but in a more convenient and, often, fully digital setting.
Professional Growth in Nursing
There has been a strong shift in recent years toward encouraging training at the bachelor’s level. This is reflected, in part, by developments such as New York’s BSN in 10 law, which mandates that nurses obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing within ten years of achieving RN status.
In many specialties, the BSN now represents a first step, ideally followed by a master’s degree to facilitate advanced practice registered nursing (APRN). Nurses will also be encouraged to seek credentials specific to their unique skill sets and areas of passion.
Collaboration and Interdisciplinary Approach in Healthcare
Nurses are increasingly regarded as playing a vital and irreplaceable role within larger teams of physicians, specialists, and other healthcare professionals. However, they have all-too-frequently encountered significant silos or other communication obstacles, preventing them from properly collaborating or sharing critical patient information. Moving forward, nursing will follow general efforts to make healthcare more collaborative while boosting interdisciplinary practices.
Team-Based Care Models
An increasing share of facilities and providers now emphasize team-based care. This approach treats patients as valuable members of larger healthcare teams that also include registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and many other medical professionals.
The National Academy of Medicine defines this model as “the provision of health services… by at least two healthcare providers who work collaboratively with patients and their caregivers,” adding that the preferences of the patient must be taken into account while still striving for “coordinated high-quality care.”
Team-based care is largely viewed as an ideal solution for improving patient satisfaction while reducing the cost of health services and boosting the health of entire populations. Implementing this model has proven challenging thus far, but emerging research suggests that the shift can be streamlined through better access to data (including electronic health records) and improved delegation.
Promoting Effective Communication
Core competencies such as verbal and written communication have always been vital in the field of nursing, but their value will soon extend beyond interacting with patients. As nurses work closely with an expanding range of professionals, they will need to speak clearly and confidently with a variety of individuals, including not only healthcare employees but also patients and their families. Active listening is essential, as are honest and open interactions that leave all parties feeling respected and fully informed.
Consider a Master of Science in Nursing
As you prepare for a bright future in nursing, consider the role that a Master of Science in Nursing could play in advancing your career. Salem University’s MSN program will equip you with a variety of in-demand skills and expose you to the latest research so you are prepared to take on the challenges and opportunities of modern nursing. Reach out today to learn more.